John Lewis and Marks & Spencer both released their Christmas adverts this week, both out to charm shoppers into opening their purses.

Christmas ad battle

John Lewis stuck to its tried-and-tested formula with Moz the Monster while M&S struck a deal with Studio Canal for a Paddington Christmas campaign, designed to tie into festive family film Paddington 2.

So what did advertising professionals think? Three make their case here.

Did M&S miss an opportunity?

First up, M&S’ advert is beautiful to watch and a great idea: everyone loves Peru’s finest import at Christmas, don’t they?

Twitter certainly seemed to ‘like’ the advert, some for the wrong reasons maybe. But there’s no such thing as bad PR is there?

Overall, this feels like a great trailer for the impending film but does it really make M&S the destination for my Christmas spending? Not so sure.

“During a year where there have been some real-life monsters creeping out from under the bed, what’s not to love above Moz, Joe and the familiarity of this storytelling in uncertain times?”

M&S will be stocking all of Paddington 2’s merchandise, which is bound to be popular, but I missed a little bit of product during the ad. And the burglar could have been a little bit more ‘Bad Santa’ for me.

Next up, the familiar John Lewis format of ‘thoughtful gifting’ – directed by Michel Gondry with a soundtrack by Elbow and starring a flatulent Monster called Moz who lives under the bed.

During a year where there have been some real-life monsters creeping out from under the bed, what’s not to love above Moz, Joe and the familiarity of this storytelling in uncertain times?

Does it make me think that the good people of Britain shop at John Lewis? Absolutely. And does it make me want to be one of them? I’ll see you there.

  • Mark Elwood, executive creative director at MullenLowe London

John Lewis Christmas ad 2017

Even Elbow can’t produce ‘all the feels’

I have to declare a vested interest upfront and say that the Paddington film is a firm favourite with my 3-year-old twins.

They laugh like drains at the scene where the bath overflows and he sails down the stairs in the tub so this will be their favourite by some distance.

I was half hoping that John Lewis would go down the My Little Pony route, which would have given Paddington a run for his money but no… not quite.

It seems safe to say that ‘entertainment’ has become the primary focus for the big retailers at Christmas and that is just as it should be.

“I may be growing cynical in my old age but, in spite of Gondry and all the song and dance, Moz the Monster just didn’t move me. Elbow help it along a bit but even Guy Garvey can’t produce what I think the youngsters are calling ‘all the feels’”

Paddington has it all – sleigh-related slapstick, good triumphs over evil, a diverse family, Ben Whishaw’s voice and Angela Rippon.

I can’t now recall any products although I have a vague sense that there was a ‘hero’ girls dress and some checked loungewear kicking about.

The planner in me wants to know what’s happened to the big talk around ’spending it well’. Ah yes, there it is on the end frame.

“The ad continues the brand’s ‘Spend it well’ platform that launched in May, which encourages people to focus on the people and experiences that matter most. Paddington embodies this philosophy because he helps protect a magical moment at Christmas,” M&S brand and marketing director Rob Weston explained. 

Course it does. Ahem. But Christmas isn’t about strategy. It’s about winning the hearts and the wallets.

A nd so to John Lewis, the masters of trailing their own work and creating a great big PR story around, well, a long TV ad.

I may be growing cynical in my old age but, in spite of Gondry and all the song and dance, Moz the Monster just didn’t move me. Elbow help it along a bit but even Guy Garvey can’t produce what I think the youngsters are calling ‘all the feels’.

It’s nicely executed and it’ll probably be popular (a big, friendly monster to have all sorts of japes with) but I may be becoming a little tired of what feels like a formula – a gentle, kid-focused story resolved by a single product.

If the criteria for judging is entertainment (and let’s be honest, no-one is going big on strategy at this time of year), M&S and Paddington wins hands-down.

And yes, the two brands are different, and the style and tone of John Lewis is as restrained and middle-classly elegant as ever, but in terms of trying to elicit a feeling of warmth and Christmassy-loveliness, I love the bear.

And someone at M&S has made the extremely sensible decision to steer away from the sparkly dresses this year, which can only be good.

Happy November everyone!

  • Sophie Lewis, head of planning at Iris

Marmalade sandwich or monster mash?

Zero risks, but why would you take any?

With Michael Gondry signed up to direct, I was looking forward to seeing the creative direction John Lewis were going to take.

Perhaps that was asking too much.

“Rather than creating a unique character like Moz, just hang onto the (duffle) coattails of a well-loved bear that happens to have a movie out”

It’s been a tough year for retail. So instead of debuting its new studio album, this ad feels like another track from their smash platinum seller.

It ticks all the boxes for its middle-class audience: cute kid, emotive track, iconic character.

It takes zero risks. But why would you?

M&S love a celebrity endorsement. This year it’s recruited another British icon, Paddington Bear, to mark a shift from ‘feast and fashion’ to a more family-focused positioning.

Does it work? The mistaken identity feels predictable but it’s still a beautifully made ad and a clever marketing move.

Rather than creating a unique character like Moz, just hang onto the (duffle) coattails of a well-loved bear that happens to have a movie out.

So, marmalade sandwich or monster mash?

Both brands have the budget and firepower to produce magnificent adverts, and M&S have done enough to buy into the space that John Lewis rules.

John Lewis might have crept under the bed this year but, for me, it’s still top of the pile.

  • Mark Beaumont, chief creative officer at Dinosaur

Our experts’ consensus is that John Lewis has won the battle but this does not entirely match up with public opinion. Many took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the Moz ad.

Retail Week executive editor’s George MacDonald’s Twitter poll is currently showing a clear win for M&S.

What do you think? Leave us a comment or tweet us @RetailWeek.

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